Picture a vain king who wants a statue of himself, and he demands that it be created by the greatest sculptor in the land. How does he find the sculptor with the greatest skill? Maybe he’d hire a sculpting professor, who wrote the book on sculpting. Maybe he’d hire the most famous sculptor, who has the most fans.
Raja Weise thinks that the king, if he were wise, would hire neither of those sculptors, because the professor spends most of his time writing books, and the popular sculptor spends his time marketing himself. The king should hold a competition, Weise says, and hire the person who has developed the greatest skill by spending most of their time on their craft.
That’s why Weise created Spotidol, a digital competition platform, where you can “be the top anything of anything.”
Spotidol is the first app Weise has developed, and it launched in February 2019. With Spotidol, users can create or enter competitions. Some of them are just-for-fun, low-stakes contests that are free to enter, and winners get some recognition and bragging rights. Others offer cash prizes, and charge a small entry fee.
Weise, 25, is from south Florida. He moved to Oakland in 2017, where he found himself between two seemingly embattled worlds—the tech field and the creative field. Weise originally studied music composition and physics at the University of Florida School of Music, where he created everything from classical to reggae to electronic music. He still makes music in his free time (of which he has very little).
While taking a semester off, Weise found himself thinking of ‘the king and the sculptor’ scenario. He wanted to create something not so much for the king as for the sculptor—to find a way for skilled creators to make their skill known without taking time away from their craft.
He went back to school for business and economics, and that’s when he had the idea to create Spotidol. His mother is a software developer, and had taught him basic programming when he was a small child, so he started developing a website competition platform. Suddenly, he was spending all of his time programming.
When he first moved to Oakland two years ago, he tried to secure a place to live at a Bay Area commune. Members of the commune had to be unanimous when accepting a new tenant, and Weise was turned away. They said it was because he was in tech.
It wasn’t until that moment that Weise realized he was in two worlds that, in Oakland, are often at odds. Tech is often seen as a villain for long-time Oaklanders, because the wealthy silicon valley spillovers have displaced their neighbors, family members, or themselves from places they used to be able to afford.
Weise doesn’t work for a tech company. He is up all night and day creating, tweaking, learning, perfecting—his lifestyle right now is more that of a starving artist than a wealthy techie.
And Weise says that the tech aspect of what he is doing is a tool. It’s a way to make it easier for creators to jump the hurdles of monetization, purpose and curation. The way he sees it, creators get blocked from creating when they need to make money, when they don’t have a purpose to create, and when their work is not being distributed to the people who would appreciate it.
And its uses are proving to be plentiful.
Recently, Berkeley Unified School District used Spotidol to facilitate their oratorical competition. The audience of the live event used Spotidol to vote for their favorite performance, and judges scored the performances.
On Sunday, Oakhella will use Spotidol to host a style competition, where people at the Oakhella festival can submit photos of their outfits, users can vote, and the winner gets $150. Other open competitions include the free-to-enter ‘Photo of the Week’ competition, and the $2 entry fee ‘Best Travel Story’ competition.
And coming soon, the Oakland Post will host competitions to spotlight local businesses and artists. If you want to vote in or enter these competitions, download the free Spotidol app, or make a free account on the website at spotidol.com.